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Am I entitled to my husband's pension if I divorce him?

View profile for Dawn Millar
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Divorce can be a complicated and emotionally charged time, especially in terms of dividing assets. Over time, it is likely that your assets have become entangled with your spouse’s, and at this stage, you may both have opposite ideas about what constitutes as a fair division of assets.

It is always important to consider individual entitlements when reaching a divorce financial settlement. To assist you to separate your assets, whilst protecting your interests, working with an expert divorce solicitor is recommended.

In this article we will explore the topic of pension entitlements, including whether or not you could be entitled to a share of your husband’s pension if you divorce him, and generally how pensions are divided.

If you would like to talk to one of our solicitors about divorce and pension rights today, please get in touch with our solicitors at Brethertons.

We have offices in BanburyBicester and Rugby, working with clients across Coventry and Warwickshire, the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and nationwide.

Am I entitled to my husband’s pension if we get divorced?

One of the most commonly asked questions concerning divorce financial settlements is, “Am I entitled to my husband’s pension if I divorce him?”

There is no straightforward answer to this question. In the United Kingdom the division of pensions during a divorce follows specific guidelines and laws. Essentially, you might be entitled to a portion of the pension, but that will depend on your individual circumstances.

It is important to note that the principle of fairness remains at the heart of all financial settlements relating to divorce, meaning that all assets (including pensions) are subject to division between both parties. The starting point is to have an equal split of assets, yet this can change depending on the circumstances and requirements of either party. Generally speaking, 50/50 split divorce settlements are quite rare.

Factors that are considered when dividing marital assets include:

  • The income of each spouse, and their earning capacity
  • The financial requirements of both
  • Any physical or mental health needs or conditions that either party may have
  • The needs of any children
  • How each person has made their contributions to the marriage

Pensions come under the category of marital assets, which means they are subject to division, regardless of who contributed to them. All UK based pensions can be shared, saved for the State pension.  Pensions which can be shared, and which we can advise you on, include occupational pensions, public sector schemes and private pensions, as well as self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs).

Our divorce and pension solicitors are well equipped to handle all matters related to pension entitlement and the division of pensions.

How are pensions split during a divorce?

There are a few different ways that pensions can be split during a divorce, including:

Pension offsetting

A common method for splitting pensions, offsetting refers to one spouse surrendering any entitlement to their ex-spouse’s pension, and in exchange, they then receive a greater portion of the other assets involved in their divorce settlement.

This is seen as one of the more beneficial methods for both spouses, particularly where the housing of children is a priority.

Pension sharing orders

This method requires the transfer of a portion of one spouse’s pension benefits to the other spouse’s pension, traditionally done by setting up a new pension on behalf of the receiving spouse, or by adding to an existing pension.

The amount transferred is normally done as a percentage based on the value of the pension to be shared, at the time of divorce. For example, if the pension is worth £200,000 and the sharing order is 50%, the amount given to the receiving spouse will be £100,000.

This is another method of splitting pensions during a divorce, which has gained in popularity over the last few years. This method allows ex-couples to financially cut ties, so that both can move forward with separate pensions.

Pension attachments

A pension attachment order attaches a portion of one partner’s pension benefits to the other, meaning that instead of operating their own separate pension, the receiving partner will get a portion of their ex-spouse’s pension payments, each time they are paid to the pension member.

Whilst pensions attachment orders were commonplace in the past, these are quite rare now. This is likely due to how inflexible the structure is. The receiving spouse is essentially forced to depend on their ex-spouse’s pension, in comparison to other methods that allow for a clean break.

If you have any questions about the methods used to divide pensions, or general queries about divorce and pension pay outs, our solicitors are happy to help.

Can I get my ex-husband’s pension if he dies?

Whether an individual will be entitled to their ex-spouse’s pension upon their death will depend on multiple factors. Such factors include what kind of pension scheme the ex-spouse had, and any legal agreements or court orders that are in place.

If your ex-partner had a workplace pension, the rules governing how the pension should be distributed in the event of their death would normally be outlined in the pension scheme’s documentation. In many cases, if there was a pension sharing order or a pension attachment order in place after the divorce, you may be entitled to receive a specified amount of the pension upon their death. Regardless, this will of course depend upon the terms previously agreed.

In terms of personal pensions, whether an individual can receive pension benefits upon the death of their ex-partner will depend on the terms of the pension scheme and the beneficiary designations put in place by the pension holder. If you were named as a beneficiary in the policy, you could be entitled to pension benefits. However, it is always recommended to receive legal advice in these situations. Doing so will ensure that you are fully informed as to your entitlements.

With regard to state pensions, in the UK the state pension is not transferable to an ex-spouse upon the death of the pension holder, with each UK citizen being entitled to their own state pension based on their National Insurance contributions over their lifetime.

Consult our divorce and pensions solicitors in Banbury, Bicester and Rugby

To speak to one of our friendly and professional lawyers regarding your case, please get in touch with a member of our team. As experts in divorce and pension rights, no matter no complicated your needs are, we can help.

We have offices in BanburyBicester and Rugby, working with clients across Coventry and Warwickshire, the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and nationwide.